car, so as to avoid the condition wherein bushing compliance allows the wheels to assume atoe-out condition.It should be noted that in recent years, designers have been using bushing compliance in streetcars to their advantage. To maximize transient response, it is desirable to use a little toe-in atthe rear to hasten the generation of slip angles and thus cornering forces in the rear tires. Byallowing a bit of compliance in the front lateral links of an A-arm type suspension, the rear axle will toe-in when the car enters a hard corner; on a straightaway where no cornering loadsare present, the bushings remain undistorted and allow the toe to be set to an angle thatenhances tire wear and stability characteristics. Such a design is a type of passive four-wheelsteering system.
THE EFFECTS OF CASTER
Caster is the angle to which the steering pivot axis is tilted forward or rearward from vertical,as viewed from the side. If the pivot axis is tilted backward (that is, the top pivot is positionedfarther rearward than the bottom pivot), then the caster is positive; if it's tilted forward, thenthe caster is negative.Positive caster tends to straighten the wheel when the vehicle is traveling forward, and thus isused to enhance straight-line stability. The mechanism that causes this tendency is clearlyillustrated by the castering front wheels of a shopping cart (above). The steering axis of ashopping cart wheel is set forward of where the wheel contacts the ground. As the cart is pushed forward, the steering axis pulls the wheel along, and since the wheel drags along theground, it falls directly in line behind the steering axis. The force that causes the wheel tofollow the steering axis is proportional to the distance between the steering axis and thewheel-to-ground contact patch-the greater the distance, the greater the force. This distance isreferred to as "trail."Due to many design considerations, it is desirable to have the steering axis of a car's wheelright at the wheel hub. If the steering axis were to be set vertical with this layout, the axiswould be coincident with the tire contact patch. The trail would be zero, and no casteringwould be generated. The wheel would be essentially free to spin about the patch (actually, thetire itself generates a bit of a castering effect due to a phenomenon known as "pneumatictrail," but this effect is much smaller than that created by mechanical castering, so we'll ignoreit here). Fortunately, it is possible to create castering by tilting the steering axis in the positivedirection. With such an arrangement, the steering axis intersects the ground at a point in frontof the tire contact patch, and thus the same effect as seen in the shopping cart casters isachieved.The tilted steering axis has another important effect on suspension geometry. Since the wheelrotates about a tilted axis, the wheel gains camber as it is turned. This effect is best visualized by imagining the unrealistically extreme case where the steering axis would be horizontal-asthe steering wheel is turned, the road wheel would simply change camber rather thandirection. This effect causes the outside wheel in a turn to gain negative camber, while theinside wheel gains positive camber. These camber changes are generally favorable for cornering, although it is possible to overdo it.Most cars are not particularly sensitive to caster settings. Nevertheless, it is important toensure that the caster is the same on both sides of the car to avoid the tendency to pull to oneside. While greater caster angles serve to improve straight-line stability, they also cause anincrease in steering effort. Three to five degrees of positive caster is the typical range of settings, with lower angles being used on heavier vehicles to keep the steering effortreasonable.